Northwestern will open the 2010-11 season on Friday at Northern Illinois. The game can be heard on WGN and can seen for a fee through NUsports.com’s all-access package. Of course, that fee is setup as a monthly subscription package so you can’t just order one game. You have to remember to cancel afterwards. Note that if you’re going to pay for this service. To be honest, I think it’s beyond ridiculous a single game service option isn’t offered. Basically, because the monthly system is auto renewed it’s essentially trying to scam people because they might forget to cancel their subscription. One should also note if you plan to do this that NIU's monthly fee is $6.95 compared to NU's $9.95, so I'd go with NIU. I think the money goes to CBS anyway so it's not like you're shorting Northwestern. Of course, I'd pay $9.95 if I didn't have to worry about remembering to cancel later.
Now, on to the game…
Northern Illinois went 10-20 last year and only returns one player who made significant scoring contributions. That player is guard Xavier Silas who transferred to NIU from Colorado when NIU hired former Colorado coach Ricardo Patton. Numbers wise I’d compare Silas to Penn State’s Talor Battle. Battle’s numbers are more impressive because he’s 5-10 and Silas is 6-5, but both players score high double figures and pull down more than five rebounds a game from the their guard spot. Last year Silas averaged 19.7 and 5.3. What he doesn’t do as well as Battle is handle the ball. He had 41 assists and 60 turnovers last season. With that in mind look from NIU to lean heavily on Kyree Jones a freshman from Indiana. James drew interest from some Big Ten schools and is notable in the Chicago area as the son of former Chicago State head coach Kevin Jones. At 6-2 Jones will be bigger than Juice Thompson when going head-to-head, but Juice’s three years of starting experience against bigger Big Ten guards gives NU a major advantage here.
In the front court for NIU probably watch Lee Fisher. At 6-5 Fisher is actually one of NIU’s bigger players. He started 21 games at forward last year and averaged basically 4 points and 4 rebounds a game. He’ll need to do more if NIU wants to pull the upset. It’s also wroth noting that Fisher is bad free throw shooter if that becomes an issue in any way. With Fisher fans might also see Tim Toler a transfer from Danville Area Community College. A Junior College All-American, his 6-7 270 lbs. frame should be a good test for the bulked up Luka Mirkovic.
Bill Carmody made the comment that he might start Mike Capocci in some games depending on matchups, but in this contest I think we’ll see what I expect to be the regular starting line of Thompson, Cobb, Crawford, Shurna, and Mikrovic for NU. I will be interested to see how Capocci, Jeff Ryan, and Alex Marcotullio are used off the bench as I don’t think the exhibition game gave true sense of Coach Carmody’s sub pattern plans. If NU has defensive issues guarding Silas, I’d expect to see more of Ryan and Marcotullio who looked like NU’s best defenders last week. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see NU in the 1-3-1 Friday night. NIU was a terrible three point shooting team last year and even Silas only made 32.1% of his threes. In fact, against such a team the 1-3-1 might be the best way for NU to defend.
This is a road game and those came be tough, but as I posted earlier this week I don’t think the road should faze this NU team. I also think that despite a couple potentially quality additions, NIU still hasn’t recaptured their early-mid 90s form. It could be close early, but NU should win this one pretty easily. I predict: Northwestern, 85 Northern Illinois, 71